TIME FOR THE TRAILS
THE BEST SHOES FOR HITTING OFF-ROAD TERRAIN THIS WINTER ARE REVIEWED BY AW’S PAUL FREARY
Salomon – Sense Ride
A departure from the typical trail shoes by this brand, this model is designed to take you straight from the front door to the hills.
The deep cushioning has a road running shoe like feel to it and with an 8mm drop is easy to get along with straight out of the box. The outsole, while not the most aggressive, works well, with nicely spaced lugs that are deep enough to grip most surfaces without feeling too harsh for firmer terrain.
Like all of Salomon’s shoes, the upper is very well made and feels durable and hard wearing. Thanks to the mesh construction it feels great around the foot and with the familiar drawstring fastening creates a good fit that is easy to adjust.
We say: A perfect first time trail
361 degrees – Ortega 2
Thanks to the brand’s ‘Quikfoam’ cushioning technology, this shoe has a very cushioned feel for a trail shoe. The plush midsole has a definite ‘spring-like’ feel on toe-off and it responds well to all but the harshest of trails. The evenly spread outsole pattern is something of a compromise between a regular road shoe and a deeply lugged trail shoe, but that makes it more versatile.
It’s not the most luxurious shoe we tried, but it’s well made and uses durable materials that provide plenty of protection as well as being relatively waterresistant.
We say: Good value, versatile model.
New Balance – Fresh Foam Gobi Trail v2
Not the most aggressive trail running shoe around, but definitely one of the most comfortable thanks to the Freshfoam cushioning.
The lightweight, one-piece midsole is similar to that used in several of the brands road running models and as such does a great job of soaking up the impact.
The outsole uses an ‘all over grip’ pattern and the uniform nature of it means it’s equally at home on the road as it is on parkland trails.
It’s not going to cut it in deep mud, but what it does offer is a good all-round performance perhaps for someone looking for his or her first off-road shoe.
We say: Great value and a good choice for a weekend parkrun.
INOV-8 – Roclite 305
A really adaptable shoe, this will handle varying terrain with ease thanks to its great cushioning and outsole. The 8mm heel drop gives it the feel of a regular road running shoe and makes it comfortable particularly for longer off-road training.
The deeper midsole also has a responsive feel, absorbing impact and providing a nice push off. Lugs on the outsole offer excellent traction, and at 6mm deep, are as aggressive as you’ll find on any running shoe, yet manage to grip without the feeling of harshness sometimes found in trail running soles.
The multi-direction design of the lugs helps retain grip on unpredictable terrain while the flexibility of the sole means that mud and debris aren’t collected in the sole as you go. On the upper, the standout feature is the soft and plush feel – it has the comfort of a road shoe yet still manages to retain protective features such as a reinforced toe bumper that also add to the durability.
The ‘Adapterweb’ lacing incorporates into the midfoot of the shoe and holds the foot securely in place however harsh the terrain.
We say: A go-anywhere shoe with great grip.
ON – Cloudventure Midtop
Our testers have praised all of this brand’s offerings, with the fit of the upper being a standout feature for many. This shoe was no different.
“For a trail shoe the midtop style is a great design, it helps hold the foot in place as well as keeping the mud and gravel out of the shoe,” said one tester.
In many aspects, the shoe is similar to the regular Cloudventure model, with a 6mm heel drop in the midsole which features the cloud cushioning technology. It’s most at home on firmer trails, with the outsole lug pattern operating best on light gravel and the woodland paths where we tested it.
The shoe also retains a responsive feel and despite the ‘boot’ design it’s light and flexible and easy to push the pace in.
The upper fit is superb, neatly tailored and well made, with the high top design offering additional support around the ankle for reassuring security on the rougher ground.
We say: Perfect for those wanting a little more ankle support, the shoe’s fit
Hoka – Speedgoat 2
The original Speedgoat shoe was this brand’s first serious off-road model with aggressive grip and, of course, the now familiar deep cushioned midsole. It had a large number of fans, but its narrow fit wasn’t for everyone. This version is vastly different in all but name.
With a wide midsole, which creates a more stable footing and a wider fitting toe box, the shoe should appeal to a much wider range of runners. We thought the shoe more similar to the brand’s popular road model, the Clifton, in terms of its overall shape and fit.
The upper uses distinctly softer materials and the cushioning deep and soft – great for mile after mile on firmer trails. The outsole keeps its Vibram rubber, with deep lugs for good traction. The shoe is light and remarkably flexible for such a deeply cushioned model.
We say: Great cushioning, plush feel and good grip, a perfect long distance off-roader.